Background: Diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections (ARI) are assumed to be major drivers of growth and likely contribute to environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), which is a precursor to childhood malnutrition. In the present study, we checked the correlation between diarrhoeal/ARI burden and EED using a novel duodenal histological index. Methods: Between November 2017 and July 2019, a total of 365 infants with weight-for-height Z scores (WHZ score) of <−2 were enrolled, and 51 infants with WHZ scores of >0 and height-for-age Z scores (HAZ scores) of >−1 were selected as age-matched healthy controls. Morbidity was assessed weekly and categorised as the total number of days with diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection (ARI) from enrolment until two years of age and was further divided into four quartiles in ascending order. Findings: The HAZ declined until two years of age regardless of morbidity burden, and WHZ and weight-for-age Z scores (WAZ scores) were at their lowest at six months. Sixty-three subjects who had a WHZ score <−2 and failed to respond to nutritional and educational interventions were further selected at 15 months to investigate their EED histological scores with endoscopy further. EED histological scores of the subjects were higher with increasing diarrhoeal frequency yet remained statistically insignificant (p = 0.810). Interpretation: There was not a clear correlation between diarrhoea and ARI frequency with growth faltering, however, children with the highest frequency of diarrhoea had the highest EED histological scores and growth faltering. Funding: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The National Institutes of Health.
- Acute respiratory illness
- Environmental enteric disease
- Linear growth
- Ponderal growth